We NFL fans spent all offseason researching and building stories of what to expect for the 2023 season, and they all got blown out of the water in Week 1.
The opening week of the 2023 season featured upsets, close games, and many more lopsided affairs. It also taught us a thing or two about what to expect for the rest of the season.
Here are the five most important takeaways from the first Sunday of the NFL season.
NFL Week 1 Takeaways
The Big D Stands For Defense
Cowboys fans spent most of the offseason stressing about their new play-caller, Mike McCarthy, and whether Tony Pollard would be healthy enough for Week 1. They may have forgotten that their dominant defense is what’s driving Dallas’ championship credentials.
Dallas allowed just 171 yards of total offense to the Giants, with roughly 20 percent coming on New York’s opening drive, and harassed quarterback Daniel Jones all night long. The Cowboys’ defense sacked Jones seven times while forcing three turnovers and scored twice in their 40-0 rout on Sunday Night Football.
- Check out our weekly Sunday Night Football predictions.
The unit covered for the fact its offense didn’t impress — though the weather may have had something to do with that. Still, if the Cowboys’ defense is going to play like that all season, they’re clearly right there with the Eagles and 49ers in the upper echelon of NFC contenders.
We’ll see if they can do it again against the Jets next weekend.
Tua Can Win NFL MVP
As Tua Tagovailoa went, so too did the Miami Dolphins in 2022. So, Dolphins fans will be happy to know that Tua’s back.
Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert went back and forth in the game of the day at SoFi on Sunday. But Tua got the last laugh, throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns, two to Tyreek Hill, including the game-winning four-yard score with 1:45 left.
Perhaps most importantly, Tagovailoa was not sacked Sunday. The Dolphins were 8-4 in games Tua both started and finished in 2022 and were 1-5 in those he didn’t, including their season-ending 34-31 loss in the wild-card round to the Bills.
But if Tua is slinging it around like he did Sunday, he’ll be a legitimate contender in the NFL MVP odds, and the Dolphins will compete with the AFC’s elite.
Bears? More Like Cubs
Pundits spent the offseason trying to convince the NFL world that Justin Fields and the Bears would make the leap in 2023, apparently forgetting they were the worst team in football last season.
So, when it came time to take the field Sunday in Chicago, it was the other third-year quarterback who played mistake-free football. Jordan Love posted 245 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Fields turned the ball over twice in Green Bay’s convincing 38-20 win.
- Who will win it all? Stay up to date all season long with our Super Bowl 58 odds.
Chicago managed just 92 yards on seven drives between the second quarter and early fourth, with 65 coming on its nine-play touchdown drive in the third. The Bears’ offense still outgained Green Bay, but they couldn’t unlock new weapons like D.J. Moore (two catches, 25 yards) or Roschon Johnson (55 rushing yards). Even Fields struggled, leading Chicago with just 59 rushing yards.
It could be another long year for Windy City football. We’ll see if the Bears can turn it around in Tampa against the Buccaneers next weekend.
Payton Won’t Solve Everything
It is a remarkable coincidence that Broncos coach Sean Payton spent training camp badmouthing Nathaniel Hackett and trying to undo all the rookie coach’s progress only to produce the same Week 1 result as last season.
The Broncos fell 17-16 to the Seahawks in the 2022 opener on Monday Night Football. They lost 17-16 to the Raiders in Week 1 at Mile High on Sunday in a largely uneventful and uninteresting game, which makes this situation fascinating.
Denver is almost out of draft assets after acquiring Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson over the past two offseasons. Yet, it appears it is no closer to competing in the AFC West than it was before offloading its assets.
The Broncos host the 1-0 Commanders on Sunday.
Don’t Sleep On the Niners
The popular upset pick for Sunday was the Steelers to cover the spread or win outright against the 49ers.
Yet, the Niners quickly showed why that was a terrible bet to place. San Francisco built a 20-0 lead and never looked back, rolling for a 30-7 win over the hapless Steelers.
- Wager on football this season: Learn how to bet NFL odds.
Brock Purdy efficiently led his team down the field on its opening drive and expertly managed the game, throwing for 220 yards and two scores, both to Brandon Aiyuk. But it was the San Francisco defense that looked completely dominant. The Niners picked off Kenny Pickett twice and sacked him five times, holding Pittsburgh to just 239 yards of offense.
San Francisco had QB troubles from the outset last year and memorably fell 19-10 to the Bears in Week 1. But with Purdy healthy from an elbow injury and this defense getting after it as it did, the 49ers look like the class of the NFC West.
They’ll visit the Rams on Sunday.